Updated: 07:12, Monday March 12, 2007
Hans Blix, the former UN weapons inspector, has accused America of conducting a "witch-hunt" in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
He was speaking exclusively to Sky News as part of our in-depth survey of Iraq.
All this week Sky's Inside Iraq series is focusing on how the country and its people are coping with the aftermath of the invasion - and looking at what the future holds.
Our teams on the ground will be bringing the latest developments, interviews with key players and ordinary Iraqis and expert analysis on the bigger picture.
Mr Blix became a powerful critic of the US-led invasion after his teams failed to find the significant stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that Tony Blair and President George Bush insisted Saddam Hussein was hoarding.
He told Sky News' Anna Botting the invasion was "clearly illegal" and said Mr Blair had not been completely straight with the evidence used to justify military force.
Mr Blix said: "They put exclamation marks instead of question marks. There were question marks but they changed them to exclamation marks.
"And I think they got the political punishment for that. They lost a lot of confidence. Both Bush and Blair ..."
He said that allowing the UN inspectors to continue their work could have avoided the war. More than 130 UK troops, over 3,100 US forces and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died since the invasion as the country threatens to tumble into full-scale civil war.
Mr Blix said: "I think if they'd allowed us to carry on the inspections a couple of months more then we would have been able to go to all the sites suspected of by intelligence.
"And since there weren't any weapons we'd have come with that answer: there are no weapons at all the sites you've given us."
The former Swedish foreign minister added that he hoped Iraqi people could be empowered and turn around their country's fortunes, saying: "I don't see that the US can succeed."
More on This Story:http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30000-1255303,00.html
Full Text Of Interview 'It Has Been A Tragedy'Updated: 21:54, Sunday March 11, 2007
Former United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix was a central figure in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
He warned Britain and the US against military action - and now tells Sky's Anna Botting that the invasion has been a tragedy and that he fears the current American policy will not succeed.
This is the full transcript of the interview:
ANNA BOTTING: When you told Tony Blair that you hadn't found anything, did he look at you sceptically, quizically?
HANS BLIX: Well, he was always a charming person....
BOTTING: Do you think he acted in good faith?
BLIX: I would never dare to accuse any statesman of bad faith unless I had absolute evidence of it. I do think they exercised spin.
They put exclamation marks instead of question marks. There were question marks but they changed them to exclamation marks. And I think they got the political punishement for that. They lost a lot of confidence. Both Bush and Blair lost a lot of confidence.
BOTTING: Should they be censured for what happened in Iraq?
BLIX: Aren't they already? I'm less interesed in punishment than getting the world better.
BOTTING: Was the war illegal?
BLIX: Yes it was. It was clearly illegal. Condoleezza Rice tried some acrobatic number, saying that they were actually upholding the authority of the Security Council. Upholding the authority of the Council when they knew that the majority of the Council were against it? As a lawyer I certainly don't buy that argument.
BOTTING: Could the war have been stopped through diplomacy?
BLIX: I think if they'd allowed us to carry on the inspections a couple of months more (which was the European position) then we would have been able to go to all the sites suspected of by intelligence - British, American or other. And since there weren't any weapons we'd have come with that answer: there are no weapons at all the sites that you have given us.
And I think then the intelligence would themselves have said 'our sources are evidently poor'. They had other sources - they had the defectors, satellite. But they had defectors above all. And the defectors didn't want inspection. They wanted invasion.
And the US after all were witch-hunters. They wanted to see anything as evidence that the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction. We were simply looking for the truth. We didn't assume that they had them. We didn't assume that they did not have them.
BOTTING: Do you sense the same happening now with Iran?
BLIX: There are similarities which are strong. But also dissimilarities. We see the pressure being increased on Iran. They go to the Security Council, they have some economic sanctions. Clearly at the time of the 'if' and 'when' they ask for military sanctions, clearly the Russians and the Chinese would say no.
I would hope that the majority of the Council would also be against it. Then maybe the Americans would say, as usual, the Council is impotent and someone who's more responsible in this world will have to do something about it and go in.
I wouldn't be surprised if people in Washington who reason that way. But the atmosphere in Washington has changed a good deal. The American people are tired of military adventures.
BOTTING: Do you think, therefore, that it's better that Iran has nuclear weapons than that there's another war? Where do you draw the line?
BLIX: That's fairly far down the line...
BOTTING: But it's a line that we may face in five or six years time.
BLIX: Well, why bomb now if you have that in five or six years time...
BOTTING: In order to stop them getting the capability...
BLIX: But they have now succeeded in enriching perhaps a gram of uranium. They have a long way to go to industrial grade production.
BOTTING: If you have only two options: One is that Iran has nuclear weapons and the other is a war, which would you choose?
BLIX: We are not there yet. I am not going to choose today. I am saying drop your demand for preconditions. That's what prevents you from sitting down with the Iranians.
The Iranians say 'we are ready to sit down, we are ready to discuss the question of enrichment'. So why not take them up on that? I think it's a silly diplomatic dance about a tactical advantage and they should find a diplomatic way out of that.
BOTTING: When you see the pictures of the latest bloodshed do you watch in horror?
BLIX: I think everything in Iraq after the invasion has been a tragedy. The only positive thing I think is the disappearance of Saddam Hussein.
BOTTING: Are you optimistic about Iraq's future?
BLIX: In the short term, no. There are lots of intelligent people and well educated people. I met some of them who were my opposite numbers. You must empower them. They must feel that they have the future in their hands. Whether they will succeed, I don't know. But I don't see that the US can succeed.http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30000-1255285,00.html